Washington — West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin announced Thursday he will not run for reelection to the Senate, opening the door for Republicans to pick up a seat in the solidly red state in 2024.
“After months of deliberation and long conversations with my family, I believe in my heart of hearts that I have accomplished what I set out to do for West Virginia,” Manchin, 76, said in a video announcement. “I have made one of the toughest decisions of my life and decided that I will not be running for reelection to the United States Senate, but what I will be doing is traveling the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together.”
His statement indicated that growing political divisions played a role in his decision not to run. He would have faced a difficult reelection bid, with West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, mounting his own bid for the seat. West Virginia has voted for every Republican presidential candidate since 1996.
“Every incentive in Washington is designed to make our politics extreme,” Manchin said. “The growing divide between Democrats and Republicans is paralyzing Congress and worsening our nation’s problems.”
Manchin’s announcement was quickly celebrated by Montana Rep. Steve Daines, who chairs the National Republican Senate Committee.
“We like our odds in West Virginia,” he said in a statement shortly after the announcement.
Manchin’s time in the Senate
Manchin has served in the upper chamber since 2010, when he filled a vacancy left by the death Sen. Robert Byrd. Before that, he was West Virginia’s governor from 2005 to 2010, after having made his fortune in the coal business.
He is the chamber’s most conservative Democrat, and has often found himself as the swing vote on contentious issues, whether Democrats were in the minority or majority. He effectively leveraged that position to benefit West Virginia again and again, steering billions of dollars in funding to the state and extracting concessions to achieve his policy goals, most notably on energy issues. Over the years, he has bucked his party on abortion, gun rights, climate change and the Senate filibuster, earning him the ire of his Democratic colleagues who nonetheless admitted that no other Democrat could hold his seat.
Manchin was still seen as the party’s best hope in West Virginia, even as he frustrated his colleagues by holding up some major Democratic priorities under President Biden. He delayed passage of what eventually became known as the Inflation Reduction Act, withholding his support for months until the original $3.5 trillion proposal was pared back. He has since threatened to try to roll back the legislation.
Manchin had for months played coy about his political future, saying “everything’s on the table and nothing off the table.” He told “” in June he thought he would win reelection if he decided to run.
Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, echoed that confidence earlier this month.
“If Joe Manchin runs, he will win,” PetersCBS News, adding that he had encouraged Manchin to run again as a Democrat.
Manchin has long flirted with leaving the Democratic Party, and his announcement appeared to leave the door open to a potential third-party or independent presidential run. But a top Manchin aide told CBS News that his plans to travel around the country should be seen as an attempt to maintain his centrist political capital in the Senate, not as a sign he’s going to run for president as an independent or part of a third party.
Ed O’Keefe contributed reporting.